Rolls Royce Begins Building Its Biggest Engine Yet

Rolls Royce has begun construction of its largest engine yet. The UltraFan engine should allow Rolls Royce to define new standards for engine sustainability in addition to efficiency.

Rolls Royce, Qantas, Boeing 747
Rolls Royce has acquired one of Qantas’ retired Boeing 747 aircraft. Photo: Rolls Royce

Engines have come a long way throughout the history of aviation. I personally remember looking at small engines on aircraft at London City Airport years ago. Now, aircraft such as the Airbus A380 have engines so big that you can stand in them. In fact, the new GE9X, which powers the Boeing 777X, is wider than the fuselage of the Boeing 737. Now Rolls Royce is building its largest engine ever.

The UltraFan

Rolls Royce has now started to construct its largest engine to power commercial aircraft. The UltraFan. The English Engine expert has begun to manufacture the turbine blades for the giant engine. The blades are made from a composite material and have a diameter of 140 inches. These are the first components to be manufactured for the company’s demonstrator engine.

The blades, which are being manufactured at Rolls Royce’s Bristol technology hub, will help the UltraFan to redefine efficiency standards. According to the engine manufacturer, the first generation UltraFan will be 25% more fuel-efficient than its Trent counterpart.

Rolls Royce, UltraFan, construction
The huge UltraFan will redefine engine efficiency and sustainability. Photo: Rolls Royce

What sets the UltraFan apart?

So what sets the UltraFan apart from the current generation of Trent engines? The engine has a brand new core architecture which increases its efficiency while lowering emissions. The engine also has components that allow it to run at higher temperates aiding efficiency. Finally, UltraFan has a geared design that promotes a high-thrust, high-bypass ratio.

Rolls Royce has the ability to scale the thrust of the engine from 25,000 pounds of thrust to four times that at 100,000 pounds of thrust. The UltraFan will be tested at Rolls Royce’s new Testbed. While not being constructed just for testing the UltraFan, testbed 80 will be large enough to test the huge engine. Simple Flying visited the testbed under construction last year.

Rolls Royce, Qantas, Boeing 747
Rolls Royce is currently constructing Testbed 80 at at cost of £90 million. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

Rolls Royce estimates that ground tests for the new engine will commence sometime next year (2021). The manufacturer expects that the engine will be available towards the end of the decade. However, prior to then, the UltraFan will also be tested in Rolls Royce’s new Boeing 747 engine test aircraft.

The former Qantas aircraft was delivered to the Engine Manufacturer at Moses Lake in October last year. After the ceremonial keys to the aircraft were handed from Qantas to Rolls Royce work began to convert the 747 into a high tech flying engine testbed. This conversion, being performed by AeroTEC, is expected to take around two years, meaning that 1/8th of the work should be complete.

What do you think of the Rolls Royce UltraFan? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!